Sound Design

Change is a good thing, according to architect and custom-home builder, Brad O’Neill. 'Peoples’ needs and desires are constantly evolving during their lifetime,' he says, 'and this process should be reflected in where they live.'

November 01, 1999

Change is a good thing, according to architect and custom-home builder, Brad O’Neill. "Peoples’ needs and desires are constantly evolving during their lifetime," he says, "and this process should be reflected in where they live."


Perched on a magnificent site overlooking Puget Sound, architect Brad O’Neill’s home features an eastern stick exterior with cedar shake roofing and siding. Completely separate from the main house (lower structure, on left), the home’s garage provides a base for the O’Neill’s design/build studio above it.

"My philosophy is that one should expect to move to a new residence every five to seven years. This seems to be the time frame that mirrors significant transitions in peoples’ lives," says O’Neill, who has designed and built three homes for his family. "As their lifestyles change, so do their needs."

O’Neill’s latest personal project is a dramatic, 4640-square-foot home located in picturesque Blaine, Wash. Perched on a mountainside overlooking Drayton Cove on Puget Sound, it has everything he and wife Diane need-for now.

"This is as close as possible to my ultimate ‘dream house’ for this period of my life," says O’Neill. Not only does it feature a very desirable waterfront location, but also it combines living space and office space in one location. It is from here, that the O’Neills operate their 30-year-old design/build firm, The O’Neill Group.

The $1.4 million home’s eclectic exterior features a pleasing blend of several architectural styles. Craftsman-style windows complement an overall eastern stick design that includes cedar shake siding and a dramatic, high-pitched roofline. An abundance of natural stone O’Neill used for accent, gives the home a "mountain lodge" character, which he says is the optimum style for the surrounding community.


O’Neill and his wife Diane enjoy the vista from the balcony of their home office.

Because he serves on the Blaine planning and development commission, O’Neill was particularly sensitive to the local requirements dictating the preservation of the site’s mature trees. Designed to have minimal impact on its surroundings, the home’s style and exterior finish blends well within the natural landscape. "I purposely design and build new homes to look like they are not new," he says.

O’Neill’s home is located in Semiahmoo, an exclusive golf course community north of Seattle, which attracts an active and affluent empty nester/retiree market in the Pacific Northwest.


O’Neill imported five truckloads of Aspen granite to accent both the home’s exterior and interior. Here, granite walls define the passageway into the temperature-controlled wine cellar.

In anticipation of using his own home as a model for potential clients, O’Neill, was careful to take into account the needs of the local empty nester market when developing his floor plan. One essential feature to include was a main-floor master suite. "You would never dream of making them climb upstairs or down to reach their bedroom in this empty nester market," he says.

Taking another cue from the local market, O’Neill eliminated the formal dining room, opting instead for an open kitchen/dining arrangement that is separated visually by a snack bar. "I’ve found that most of the home buyers in this community have lived in luxury homes before. While they still have sophisticated tastes, they want to reduce the formality of their home."

Two secondary bedrooms (each with access to a full bath) on the home’s walkout basement level ensure the comfort of overnight guests. Completed in late 1998, the home had hard construction costs of $202 per square foot.

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